"Giant plasma TVs face ban in battle to green Britain," read a headline for an article in the UK newspaper The Independent. "EU law could ban plasma TVs," warned another in the online PC Advisor. Right after the New Year, a flurry of such articles appeared in the UK and also in the US.
The articles were in response to an EU initiative currently being drafted by the European Commission and scheduled for release this April. Highlights of the initiative, according to Paul Gray, Director, European TV Research, for display-industry research firm DisplaySearch, include:
• A set of minimum energy efficiency standards for TV sets that set a maximum power consumption limit proportional to screen area.
• A mandatory "eco" labeling system (similar to Energy Star in the States) at point of sale for televisions. These are currently being used in the EU for appliances such as washers and dryers and, more recently, cars.
• A mandatory requirement to reduce standby power consumption below 1 W.
So the initiative, while definitely being crafted to pare down the numbers of non-energy-efficient TVs, is not taking particular aim at plasma technology. "While it makes great headlines," wrote Gray in a DisplaySearch blog entry on January 20, "especially in the Euro-skeptic British press, it's just not true." (http://www.displaysearchblog.com/ 2009/01/plasma-outlawed-in-europe/).
The EC itself took steps to de-bunk the idea that the EU will ban plasma TVs. The EC posted this on its Web site, The EU in the United Kingdom: "…Sarah Lambert, Acting Head of Representation, said that the Commission has decided to target televisions because sales are going through the roof and certain models take up a lot of energy. 'We are working with manufacturers and other groups such as the environmental lobby, retailers, and small businesses because we are not legislating in a vacuum. The aim is to come up with a proposal that everyone can live with and to provide an incentive to make change in order to accelerate the market penetration of the most efficient technologies,' she said." (http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/frontpage/19012009_en.htm)
Information Display contacted Gray to ask how he thought manufacturers on both sides of the pond should react to the pending legislation. "The good ones have known for a while that there is an energy problem with plasma if they do nothing," he says. "While it is debatable how much more energy plasmas use than LCDs, it's clear that for general uses Plasma does use a bit more."
He cites Panasonic as an example of a manufacturer who has been proactive in this area, with its recently introduced NeoPDP technology. When asked about similar efforts from other manufacturers, he answered, "Panasonic has been very open and shown it very early. But I imagine that anybody with a serious stake in plasma has to be working on it. It is a hurdle that everybody's going to come across in every market."
— Jenny Donelan
Panasonic's NeoPDP is one example of a technology being used to enable more energy-efficient plasma displays. Image courtesy Panasonic.